There are quite a few questions related to overstaying visa, working illegally without proper visa, etc.

How should questions and answers suggesting criminal activity be treated here?


3 Answers 3


Such questions should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Some should be answered, others not. The rule of thumb is that we want to be "on the side of angels" in such situations.

Suppose someone asked, "I did such-and-such that I now believe to be illegal, what can I do to make it right?" That is the kind of answer we want to give, to be helpful, assuming that a satisfactory solution does, in fact, exist.

Another acceptable question might be, "I did such-and-such, that seems to be illegal, because I did it a certain way, but my understanding is that it would have been perfectly legal if I had done it the right way. What SHOULD I have done to make it legal?" Here, an answer might help the OP, but even if it doesn't, it would be useful if it helps the next person act legally.

The kinds of questions we should not answer are something like "I'm doing such-and-such, I think it's illegal, how can I cover my tracks so I don't get caught?"


Stackexchange's content policy does state that the site can't be used for illegal purpose, and a while back we made a decision (can't find it right now) that questions about how to do illegal activities would be closed.

The grey area comes in a couple of places:

  • some activities are considered 'semi-legal' (you won't get arrested for smoking pot in Vancouver, but it's not 'legal' as such) - I'd assume we still close these
  • some activities are legal in some countries (eg smoking pot in Amsterdam) but not in others. We have to be careful not to close questions where they're actually asking a valid, legal question.

Of course, we're also not lawyers, so mistakes may happen, but we can only do our best. If you're not sure, flag it for a moderator and they can certainly look at it.

  • Recently Law SE (law.stackexchange.com) was launched. Can't we migrate such questions to this site?
    – gmauch
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 14:24
  • 1
    @gmauch, sometimes. Questions such as "Is X legal?" or "What is the penalty for X?" are generally on-topic. Questions such as "Am I likely to be arrested for X?" are not.
    – Mark
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 1:32
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    Smoking pot isn't legal in Amsterdam.
    – bye
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 10:27
  • 2
    @Alex Then make it “smoking pot in Colorado”, which most assuredly is.
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 7:33
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    @tchrist Technically speaking, that isn't either. Possession is still a federal crime anywhere in the USA, but the federal government is currently not enforcing those laws in states which don't have state laws against it.
    – reirab
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 16:26

Downvote me to oblivion, but personally, I'd leave them open. Discussing illegal behavior is not illegal per se. For this reason, I believe that the SE content policy does not prohibit them.

  • 4
    True, «discussing» isn't illegal. However facilitating or inciting might be. And it's open to interpretation whether an answer is one or the other.
    – vartec
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 21:17
  • (-1) I'm not particularly concerned that discussing illegal behaviour would cause serious legal problems for the site (and I also think that SE staff – rather than random contributors – should make that determination), I just think this should not be on-topic (we obviously won't discuss anything and everything that's not illegal to discuss). But it's good you posted this as answer, it's certainly a valid position.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 14:51
  • My problem with this is: what are we here to do, as in _here in Travel; we're here to help travelers deal with issues. If a traveler wants to commit an act which could, and most probably should, result in them facing severe penalties if caught, we now have two sides of a problem to figure out. Do we facilitate the user to not get caught? Or do we tell them what they are doing is illegal and not help them at all, expressly because it is so? My viewpoint is seriously in flux about this, to be honest.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 15:11
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    @CGCampbell Actually, the question is a different one: do we forbid other people to facilitate them, or do we not? Because that is what closing a question means: preventing everyone else from answering. If the question remains open, you can always answer "don't do it, it's illegal", explaining the consequences in detail. Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 16:09
  • While I'm inclined to agree with you in most cases, I would not want to see a question survive along the lines of "I live in X; can I get away with murdering my neighbor while we are traveling together in Y?"
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 15:35

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